Balding goes trolling? Cross-media amplification of controversy at the 2012 Olympics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Victory by Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen in the 400 metre individual medley at the London Olympic Games provoked instant and controversial reactions. BBC presenter Clare Balding immediately linked Shiwen to doping. If ‘trolling’ online is the deliberate upsetting of audiences to trigger debate and reflection, was Balding trolling? Her comments triggered trajectories of affective engagement across social and mainstream media, in Britain and internationally, which fed back into BBC coverage. We trace the ‘event arc’ of controversy, finding complex tensions between broadcasters, journalists, celebrities and Twitter users as they compete to control the event’s framing. Continued controversy and attention – ‘remediated trolling’ – benefited these secondary actors. While framing influence appears more dispersed in a hybrid, transnational media ecology, we argue that prominent journalists have learnt to harness the interaction of television, newspapers and social media. These ‘stars’ gain additional prominence through event arcs. Consequently, they must take responsibility for controversies and affective engagement. Trolling brings ratings, but is it ethical?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-607
Number of pages30
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2015

Cite this